PYTHIA, the women who served as the Prophetess of Delphi for a thousand years, were the most powerful women of the ancient world. They succeeded for so long due to their learned, sage advice and very strong organization of well-educated advisors. Pythia is the inspiration for this two-minute video, which presents a positive vision of the future of AI. The modern-day Pythia depicted here prophesies a world where Man and Machine merge into a new type of hybrid entity; a world where some brave heroes become one with super-intelligent AI. Perhaps these brave men and women of the future will then become like the great Pythias of the ancient world?
I am no Pythia, far from it, but the video predictions should provide some solace to those who fear AI. The work on AI cannot be stopped, as most Cassandras naively hope. Still, the development of AI must be guided. Like many others I see the safest way to do that is to merge with AI, to use AI to enhance natural human abilities. Together, a powerful hybrid force for good may arise, going beyond even the profound affects of the great Pythias. See eg., Shi F, Zhou F, Liu H, et al. Survey and Tutorial on Hybrid Human-Artificial Intelligence (Tsinghua Science and Technology, 2023); Neuralink Corp. (founded in 2016 by Elon Musk to develop implantable brain–computer interfaces).
Pythia was the title given to the woman in charge of the Oracle services of the temple for Apollo at Delphi. It was a position of great power in the ancient world, handed down from woman to woman. All were groomed and highly educated for that role. It reminds me of the Dalai Lama position, but the Pythia was always a woman, and never claimed to be a god. They were the voice of enlightenment.
Pythia guided the fate of leaders across Greece and all of the near east. Her slogan was “Know Thyself.” One of the most famous sayings attributed to her is: “Socrates is the wisest man of all and he knows nothing.” She loved being deep and enigmatic like that.
Here is an interesting trivia note: the word “consultants” is derived from the name of the people who came to the Pythia for advice and then went back to share it with others. Another interesting fact, Plutarch (AD 46 – after AD 119) was among the many male priests who served Pythia near the end of her long reign and one of few writers who dared to mention her. Most of the knowledge and predictive techniques of the Pythians were kept confidential. They had very strong NDAs back then, with “penalty of death” type sworn clauses much frowned on today. But even the great Plutarch did not say too much about her. He was, after all, also the local judge of Delphi who later became an ambassador and citizen of Rome. One of Plutarch’s many surviving writings is of interest to me lately, Whether an Old Man Should Engage in Public Affairs (short answer – yes).
Unconfirmed rumors through the ages suggest that many of the Pythias used powerful drugs to enter trance-like states to channel the wise words of Apollo. More recent investigations have shown the presence of ethylene gas at the Apollo temple where Pythia worked. It is known to have mild hallucinogenic, trance-inducing affects, somewhat like ketamine. J. Hale and J. Chanton. The geological origins of the oracle at Delphi, Greece (Geology, 2000); E. Icaza, M.D.; G. Mashour, M.D., Ph.D, Altered States: Psychedelics and Anesthetics (Anesthesiology, 12/13). Also see: Michael Scott, Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World (2014).
No hallucinogenic vapors for me! My inspiration, modest as it is, arises from coffee, study and AI experiments. Of course, if I should merge with AI someday, hopefully without brain surgery, my predictions might then be worthy of an ancient Pythian. No doubt many consultants would then zoom up to my august presence for advice. In the meantime, I’m easily reached by email or you can leave a comment on my e-discoveryteam.com blog.
Ralph Losey Copyright 2023 — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED